In 1844 the old lady Sophie Duval receives a letter from her daughter who lives in Paris. She tells her mother she met a young man, who claims to be the son of Robert Busson du Maurier, an aristocratic glass-blower who was forced to go to England when the French Revolution broke out.
Sophie Duval sets out to visit her daughter immediately, since Robert was her brother and this young man must be her nephew. Only, her family is certainly not aristocratic.
When Sophie tells her family history to the young man in a long letter, she tells about the truth, not the fabrications of her older brother.
The family Busson were artisans, master-glassblowers who lived and worked at the glass-house of Du Maurier. Only Robert was never happy with being just a provincial glassblower, he saw himself in Paris, destined for a better life. He comes into contact with the higher classes and works himself (well, talks is probably more accurate) into their circle. That he tells a lot of lies and faces bankrupcy a couple of times does not bother him. He know he will find a way out, using his charm.
On the horizon the clouds are gathering and the people of France are ready for a revolution. Robert gambles and looses, leaving his country to go to England. Here he finds it much easier to pretend to be a persecuted aristocrat and one lie comes after another.
In the meantime, his brothers and sisters who still live in France, have to deal with the consequences of the Revolution, while each family-member has different ideas about what needs to happen for the future of France.
A couple of weeks ago I read Manderley forever, the fictional biography of writer Daphne du Maurier. This inspired me to read more from her, since her only novel I really know is Rebecca, which is one of my favorite of all times by the way.
I bought a couple of her novels and started randomly, just picking out a book that caught my attention.
The glass-blowers sounded intriguing since it has to with Daphne du Maurier’s own family history. She was always told that her family came from aristocratic glassblowers who had come to England during the French Revolution. She later found out that the Du Maurier in her name comes from the village her ancestors lived, and it was not an aristocratic family.
I like how she used this book to set the record straight. She also wanted to show her audience that she was capable of a serious historical novel. And I think that she indeed succeeded in this.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the way of the glass-blowers. They formed a tight-knit community, proud of their skills and their traditions.
Well done was the description of the years in France before the Revolution and how the ordinary people in the country had to make a living, while there was a Revolution. There were high ideals, but the execution of those ideals was not so good, and most of them got smothered in the blood of the guillotine.
The people not in Paris often did not know what was happening and lived in fear and insecurity, while of course things like marriages, births and deaths happened as normal.
I admired how the mother of Robert and Sophie made her mark as the wife of a masterglass-blower, with all the responsibilities that come with that job. I thought she was a formidable lady and somebody I would have liked to meet.
I could not help but love Robert, the rogue, a little. He was certainly charming and interesting and not a bore, which is more than I can say about Sophie, alas.
And that for me was the only downfall of this novel, the first part and the parts about Robert were really interesting, but in the end it did not keep my interest completely.
But still, a good read and I like that I now know more from Daphne du Maurier than just Rebecca.
Published in 1963